Down two with 15:25 remaining in the second half, Brandon Mitchell-Day ’26 caught the ball in the post, guarded tightly by Cornell University’s Chris Manon.
Mitchell-Day spun off of Manon’s right shoulder and in one fell swoop was alone on the baseline. He then took his allowed two steps, soaring toward the basket.
Cornell forward Sean Hansen took one hesitant step towards Mitchell-Day’s assault, but it was futile.
Mitchell-Day left the floor, his body contorting to best evade Hensen’s attempt at a block. He then slammed the ball with authority.
“Slam! Hello! What a way to tie the game!” Brett Franklin, the ESPN+ play-by-play man screamed into his microphone.
“You can’t force plays like that,” Mitchell-Day said after the game. “You just have got to read the situation and let it come to you, and I think I’m surrounded by a bunch of guys where I don’t have to force a lot of things.”
Mitchell-Day’s slam was the climax of an early second-half 25-11 run for Dartmouth, whose lead swelled to six at its largest. In the closing minutes, however, Cornell went on a 12-5 run which propelled them to victory, aided by Dartmouth’s scoreless last 1:45.
That second half lead did not come easily, as the Big Green found themselves in a 19-0 deficit almost 10 minutes into the game.
Mitchell-Day swung back and forth on the rim a few times just to emphasize the gravity of the Big Green’s comeback and even avoided the oft-called technical foul for such action.
Then, right on cue, Mitchell-Day jaunted down the court to get back on defense, as if he could make a play like that a thousand times over.
Although the Big Green came back from it, Jackson Munro ’26 lamented the team’s dreadful start.
“We can’t do that to ourselves, getting down 19 to nothing,” he said. “It creates an almost impossible situation for ourselves, especially against a team as good as they are, and the way they play, it’s really hard to come back from that.”
When asked about the Big Red’s early attack, head coach David McLaughlin praised Cornell’s prowess.
“They’re not a good offensive team — they’re an excellent offensive team,” McLaughlin said. “They’re an excellent team. They know who they are and have a real identity.”
McLaughlin also acknowledged the 770-person crowd, which supported the Big Green in their thwarted comeback. The game stood as the annual Pride Game.
“It was a terrific crowd, and it’s just one of the special things about Dartmouth,” McLaughlin said.“The support you have, not only from the school, but also from the faculty, staff and Upper Valley community … It’s a home-court advantage.”
In the closing moments, there was still hope for the Big Green. Down 56-53, the Big Green took a timeout. After an initial inbound play designed for Mitchell-Day was foiled by a Cornell tap-out, the Big Green had one more chance with five ticks left on the clock.
Dusan Neskovic ’24 received an inbound pass from the baseline but was trapped at the top of the key and forced into a bad shot. His three-point attempt bounced off the backboard as time expired, not even drawing iron.
Neskovic was still impressed with his team's effort.
“Every game in the Ivy League is important, and for us to make the leap into the final four — which is our goal — we have to win the games that are in front of us,” Neskovic said. “But I’m proud of our team and how we managed to get back from the run that [Cornell] made earlier in the game.”
In advance of Saturday’s matchup with the Columbia Lions, McLaughlin also stressed the importance of the team’s character in the early stages of games.
“Today was more about sticking to our identity,” McLaughlin noted. “The ball just wasn’t hitting the paint, and that’s not who we are. I think it’s just about not necessarily getting our feet wet, but about trusting who we are and what our identity needs to be.”
The Big Green struggled similarly on Saturday, except this time they were the ones leading at the onset. Eight minutes into the game, Dartmouth was up 18-10 on the Lions. Columbia then went on a 27-7 run to flip the script entirely, never giving up the lead after that.
At its worst, Dartmouth trailed by 23. Neskovic put up 10 points and three rebounds in just 18 minutes of play, but no Big Green player could score more than him, leading to a 72-56 defeat.
Here’s a look at the Ivy League standings after this weekend’s action:
Looking ahead to tomorrow, the Big Green will take on the Harvard Crimson, (11–8, 2–4 Ivy League), who are led by freshman guard Malik Mack, who is averaging 18.8 points per game and 4.6 assists. In their last matchup on March 4, 2023, Dartmouth defeated the Crimson 87-82 in Hanover.